A Utah Republican rally in the State Capitol fizzled a bit Wednesday when the guest celebrity, Sen. Robert Dole, didn't show and the turnout suffered.
Still, the 200 or so who did come cheered loudly for Republican federal and state candidates.Dole, the Senate minority leader, had to stay in Washington, D.C., where Congress is still struggling with several items before it can adjourn. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who is up for re-election this year, also didn't make the rally. Sen. Jake Garn said Hatch is on a House-Senate conference committee on the major drug bill and couldn't get away. Dole may come to Utah later, state GOP officials said.
Republican unity among the rank-and-file has suffered somewhat this year. While most Republicans say they'll vote for GOP Gov. Norm Bangerter, polls show that a significant number of Republicans are supporting either Democrat Ted Wilson or independent Merrill Cook. Republican leaders want those GOP votes back in their column, and so take out after Wilson and Cook when possible.
"I know Michael Dukakis and I know Ted Wilson," said Bangerter. "They have the same kind of public records. As governor of Massachusetts, Dukakis raised spending 20 percent over six years. As mayor of Salt Lake City, Wilson raised spending by 20 percent, also.
"Serving in your state Legislature, I oversaw budgets that, adjusted for inflation and population, didn't spend one cent more. As governor, spending has actually gone down by 7 percent," Bangerter said.
Speaking about Cook, who was a Republican before leaving the party to run as an independent, Bangerter said loyalty is important to Republicans.
"I'm a independent kind of guy. But I'm loyal to a party - a tradition in Utah and America. If you don't get what you want, you don't take your football and go home and form your own group."
Garn said, "Anyone who thinks that a vote for Merrill Cook is really a vote for Merrill Cook is kidding themselves. It's a vote for Ted Wilson. Every Republican should think about that. If you've voted for Ronald Reagan, if you've voted for Orrin Hatch and Jake Garn, you should vote for Norm Bangerter."
But Wilson and Cook weren't the only ones the Republicans didn't like. Rep. Wayne Owens is on their list, too.
"I thought I retired Wayne Owens in 1974," said Garn. Garn beat him that year in the U.S. Senate race. "I thought Norm Bangerter retired him in 1984." Bangerter beat Owens that year in the governor's race. "But it appears it takes three strikes to get Owens out, and Richard Snelgrove will do it this year."
Snelgrove, however, trails Owens badly in the polls in their 2nd Congressional District race.
Garn said the Democrats are fearful of the `L' word this year - liberal. "I can tell you the Wayne Owens, by anyone's measurement, is a liberal. He wants to hide that this year. Don't let him." Garn said that Owens keeps saying how well he works with Garn and the other Republican members of Utah's delegation. "He's almost running on my coattails, I didn't think you could do that with someone from the other party. I say this loud and clear. I support Richard Snelgrove for Congress."